Strengthen Immune System | Natural Health Blog

Date: 11/17/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

Nasal Irrigation Can Cause Sinus Infection

Nasal Irrigation, Sinus Infection

For pure misery, a sinus infection does the trick nicely -- making the head pound, the tissues of the nasal passages feel like they'll burst from pressure, even making the ears and gums and roof of the mouth throb. Plus, they trigger coughs and cause fever. Now imagine having sinus infections regularly, every few months or so. Those who have "recurrent rhinosinusitis" desperately seek relief, and for many of those sufferers, nasal irrigation seems like a godsend. It's cheap, it gives instant relief, and until now, it seemed completely safe.

Researchers from Georgetown University found that people who used nasal irrigation every day significantly up their risk of having recurrent sinus infections. Nasal irrigation entails using a saltwater solution and a device called a "Neti pot." (It can also be done using a cup instead of the neti pot, and with other solutions that break up mucous, such as Alkolol.) The sinus sufferer simply takes the solution up the nose and then lets it run out, along with impacted mucous. For most sufferers, the process unblocks mucous from the ears and nose enough so that the pain diminishes right away. It also may actually heal the infection, providing a natural health alternative to taking antibiotics. Many people believe that regularly rinsing out the mucous keeps new infections from forming, and so they irrigate not only to treat active infections, but also to prevent future ones. But the Georgetown University researchers say too much of even this good thing may not be so good, after all.

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The study followed 68 chronic sinusitis sufferers who used nasal irrigation twice a day for a year. The next year, the subjects stopped the daily nasal irrigation completely, and their incidence of sinus infections went down by 62 percent. Put another way, the year that the subjects rinsed twice, every day, they suffered an average of eight episodes of sinusitis a year. After they quit the irrigation, they only had three episodes a year. Plus, the study included a control group of 24 subjects who continued to rinse every day while the original group discontinued rinsing. Those who kept rinsing had a 50 percent higher incidence of new sinus infections.

How could clearing out mucous possibly increase risk of sinusitis? "Daily long-term use [of nasal irrigation] may result in an increased frequency of acute [sinusitis] by potentially depleting the nose of its immune blanket of mucus," researcher Talal M. Nsouli, MD, wrote in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) recently.

According to Dr. Nsouli, "By washing the nose, we are removing the bad mucus but, unfortunately, we are also removing the good mucus that contains the antimicrobial agents as well."

Apparently, mucous contains immunoglobulin A, immunoglobulin G, lactoferrin, and lysozyme, which act as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agents. So there's good mucous and "bad" mucous, just as there are good intestinal bacteria and not-so-good bacteria. When you take antibiotics and kill all the intestinal bacteria, you end up with gastrointestinal problems and a compromised immune system. That's why it's important to take probiotics if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing antibiotics -- to replenish the good bacteria that gets stripped out. In the same way, when you flush out all mucous, you strip away the protective element and upset the natural balance of the body. Mucous is there for a reason. It's only when it's old and dried or carries more infected material than not that it needs to be flushed out.

"I don't have anything against short-term nasal saline irrigation -- even aggressive nasal saline irrigation for three, four days or one week is totally fine," Dr. Nsouli said. "But when we are doing it on a daily basis, we are modifying the immunological biochemistry of the nose."

Dr. Gaelen T. Marshall, who edits Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, agrees that short-term use is advisable. "It is still a good idea to get rid of mucus through a saline wash when a patient has a cold," Dr. Marshall says. "But as with anything else, you can overdo it.

Of course, all of these "medical" statements must be taken with a grain of salt (tada!) since all this attention on the dangers of nasal irrigation serves the pharmaceutical industry well. We don't necessarily need to throw the neti pot out with the saline solution. And remember, many medical practitioners still consider the first-line treatment for sinus infection to be antibiotics. And antibiotics can lead to chronic sinusitis plus a lot more trouble. Given the choice between nasal flushing and antibiotic treatment, the neti pot surely seems the less dangerous -- just don't use it twice a day, every day, on a prophylactic basis, at least not until more research comes in.

PS: And here's a nice trick if using the neti pot while you actually have a sinus infection or cold. In addition to the salt, you can add a couple of droppers of a good Echinacea based tincture to aggressively "go after" the bad guys.



    Submitted by chrissy on
    June 15, 2010 - 3:50am

    jen, i've reread lisa stockwell's post several times and i do not find it aggressive in any sense of the word. i'm one that stumbled upon nasal irrigation after having suffered from an undiagnosed chronic sinus infection that i may have had my whole life. daily (gasp!) nasal irrigation for the past 6 years has enabled me to swim without plugging my nose (no more burning sensation!) and have far fewer infections, sinus pain, and headaches than i ever recall in my whole life (i am 37). in my opinion, lisa stockwell's statement is accurate and should be taken seriously.

    Submitted by Jmichael Rosenberg on
    January 9, 2012 - 11:22am

    Good day to each of you; tis an interesting discussion.

    My own conclusion after having started nasal rinsing on October 28, 2011, is that it has reduced my chronic allergic rhinitis very, very significantly. My internist urged me to give the rinse a try. I didn't... I went on vacation sick, was hay fever challenged (it is a real medical condition evidenced with low-grade fever and sinusitis), and went to a pharmacy to get the product after days of low-grade sinus infection distress. While discussing sinus rinses with the 35ish year old pharmacist, he said he goes to the rinse immediately at the first sign of a nasal passage issue (allergy or infection problem.

    Ok, so I made the purchase, rinsed for the first time that evening, twice a day while I was on the trip and all symptoms abated, just disappeared... I have now been rinsing daily for 2+ months, and am symptom free for the most part. My physician does it daily (period).

    As a sufferer of seasonal allergic rhinitis for several years now, hay fever which produces allergy symptoms during the changing of the seasons (in my case), I look forward to the next season change to discern if I now have the control/tool to keep myself allergy free as it goes from cold to warm/hot weather during the next 3 to 4 months.

    If you suffer from allergies, I would strongly urge you to try a sinus rinse; I use NeilMed Sinus Rinse. For the few dollars, it provides me with virtually total sinus issue relief!

    Take care, and give it a try. Btw, the rinse takes 1 to 2 minute(s) in the morning, and I have been sinusitis / allergic rhinitis free since October.

    Now, go out and make it a gr8 day!


    Submitted by Jen on
    January 31, 2010 - 5:40am

    Wow Lisa Stockwell, do you hear yourself? I find you as agressive as the pharmaceutical companies themselves. Jon Barron's approach is to help the body heal itself, to find the root cause, not mask it. You are obviously pushing your product to be a long term investment for consumers just like the drug companies want you on their monthly prescriptions. Some of us are looking to cure our bodies so we won't have to depend on long term meds or therapies.

    You state ""this data supports the published conclusions that positive effects of nasal irrigation as a preventive therapy outweigh any negatives.""

    To me, if there is a negative, there must be a health risk involved and we have a need and a right to know about it. I want to know if a product will hurt me if I use it everyday! Does your defensiveness come from someone speaking of the negative that you don't want us to know about? Why can't we be happy with selling everyone a neti pot and having them use it on occasion? That's a lot of neti pots! Why do we need to have everyone severely addicted to products to keep someone's pockets lined with passive income? I guess that is what it has come to, our greed at the expensive of anothers health. What a shame!

    I trust Jon Barron's advice over any salesman's. He honestly wants to help people. I learned a lot from this article, not just about the proper neti use but society too. In our world today there is so much information it is hard to know what you should take, do, who to follow or trust. A real battlezone unfortunately for the all mighty dollar. If we put that time, energy, effort and money into helping the world get healthy we would see amazing results. I took almost 15 years researching through a maze of traditional and alternative health before I found Jon Barron. His knowledge is outstanding, his products are superb and he even offers his book free for those who can't afford it. He is not afraid of stepping on anyones toes to get to the truth, just what the world needs more of! I depend on the miracle doctor to help me to the truth.

    Thank you Jon Barron, keep up the incredible work!

    Submitted by lily on
    November 17, 2009 - 5:11am

    as with anything else, you just can't over do it. short term use is still strongly encouraged.

    Submitted by Lisa Stockwell on
    November 19, 2009 - 9:29am

    This unpublished abstract is already meeting with skepticism from specialists in the field (Otolaryngologists and Allergists). While sinus rinsing won’t eliminate colds, sinus infections and allergies altogether, research shows that it will reduce their frequency and the duration and intensity of their symptoms. NeilMed has systematically collected feedback from thousands of physicians as well as customers and this data supports the published conclusions that positive effects of nasal irrigation as a preventive therapy outweigh any negatives. We have posted the published studies on nasal irrigation on our website for those who want to do their own research ( usa/publications.php). You can also go to the website to post questions and comments ( We welcome the conversation.

    Submitted by Rhonda Zisle on
    December 9, 2011 - 8:02pm

    I use the NeilMed squeeze bottle, have used for the last month nightly...
    THE RESULT? I stopped using my allergy meds, and only have to use occasionally.
    The research in this article is nasal irrigating "twice" a day, I wonder what the results were for nightly?
    For me, IT WORKS!!

    Submitted by THX on
    August 9, 2010 - 3:10am

    I lived with an undiagnosed deviated septum for years. When I first started using the saline irrigation it was a god-send and I used it every time I got a sinus infection or head cold. Unfortunately because of the deviation that meant I was rinsing a lot. I noticed I was getting sinus infections more frequently. After a trip to the otolaryngologist I was scheduled for septoplasty. They recommended the sinus rinse post-op. During the 2 weeks post-op, despite being put on two rounds of antibiotics I've had 2 sinus infections and can feel them going septic again. I found this after I started to wonder if the rinse was causing it.

    Submitted by Debra sullivan on
    June 10, 2013 - 11:39am

    I hear you, i was in an identical situation last year. I bet you were also terrified when the infections went septic, the surgery didnt cure the infection, and no amount if antibiotics could help. In fact, i have found that the antibiotics mske it worse. In other words, there is absolutely nothing an ent canreally do to help people like us. Im still sick with a sinus infection that flares up every coupke months, for almost 3 years. The best ive felt was when i went 8 months without antibiotics and rinses, took steady high quality vitamins, and juiced fruits and kale/spinach everyday. Nothing else appears to help. Good luck!!

    Submitted by Valerie on
    November 10, 2010 - 6:49am

    I was told to try nasal irrigation because of my allergies and constant sinus problems and colds. This ended up giving me a sinus infection with some of the worst post-nasal drip and mucus buildup I have ever had.

    Submitted by nasal irrigation on
    May 2, 2011 - 7:33am

    I told to try Nasal irrigation because it is the process which helps to clean our nose in cold season for good breathing.

    Submitted by Netipot on
    July 19, 2011 - 6:40am

    i try to use a nasal irrigation when i am in nose problem because it's very helpful to avoid that nasal problem. ------------ 

    Submitted by Caroline on
    September 7, 2011 - 1:18am

    Being a long time chronic sinus sufferer, even though I rinsed daily using different kinds of brands and machines for almost a year, I would never fully be rid of sinus infections that kept popping up which felt like they were almost every other month despite my best efforts to dutifully rinse and eat a healthy diet. I didn't want to resort to surgery and when I read this article, I remember thinking that before I rinsed religiously I didn't have such re occurring sinus infections. So to experiment, I gave up rinsing altogether. To my amazement, I quit getting them until last week! It has been 8 months now since my last sinus infection, and I know why I have one right now, it's because I've been pushing myself all month with my new business to the point of exhaustion. So I think one sinus infection a year is a better trade off than 8!!!! After two days of taking care of myself I'm feeling better already, and with NO rinsing or any kind of nasal spray. The body can heal itself !!!

    Submitted by Chris on
    September 20, 2011 - 7:27pm

    I use the NeilMed and it is fabulous! And I am not one to advertise anything. I found the neti pot to be too complicated to use. I love it.

    Submitted by Mike on
    October 2, 2012 - 11:23am

    I was getting sinus infections at least 6 times a year. The pain was incredible and the pain killers and sleep aids almost killed me. I started using a neti pot twice a day. Now I get an infection 1 or 2 times a year at the most. I thank god for whoever created the neti pot is a blessing.

    Submitted by ken on
    December 4, 2012 - 8:26am

    I havve used the Neli Med squueze bottle with destiled water, saline pack and 5 dropps of grape seed extract 2 to 3 times a week. I use it whne I feel a cold comming on, and have not had a sinus infection in over 4 years. I believe the process to work especially during the winter whne the air is dry.

    Submitted by Anonymous on
    February 13, 2013 - 8:18pm

    It’s Pleasure to understand your blog. The above content article is very informative & helpful. I genuinely enjoyed reading your blog and points that you simply expressed. I feel strongly about it and got information more on this subject.

    Submitted by PC on
    February 22, 2013 - 6:03pm

    I've used the NeilMed sinus rinse with distilled water and their their premixed packets, for over two years now, including following several sinus surgeries. I also started to use it once or twice daily for some allergy issues. Unfortunately, using it at that frequency caused me LOTS of problems, especially incredibly dry and swollen sinuses. In my particular case, the saline seems dry things out rather than help. And it took me months to realize this was the cause. I knew my sinus were dry, so of course I'd irrigate them with the rinse (just like all the recommendations say), and what do you know...and hour or so later they'd be insanely dry and causing me so much distress. I would attribute this to allergies and use the rinses even MORE, making the problem worse and worse all the time. It was to the point where my nose didn't run anymore like a regular person, and this went on for months. There was almost no mucous whatsoever, and while that may sound enviable, believe me, it's not. It's an incredibly unnatural and very distressing feeling. And again I assumed it was due to some other problem and kept using the rinses to moisturize things, not realizing it was the rinses themselves that were totally stripping away all the mucous and making my nose incredibly dry, irritated, and swollen. Finally something clicked in my head, and within a day or so of stopping the rinses, all this dryness went away and I finally started to feel normal again. I still have "real" problems due to allergies (or whatever), but NOT the insane dryness, sensitivity and swelling which was 100 times more distressing than the underlying problems that I'll now deal with in some other way.

    The sinus rinses may help for some people, and in specific, limited cases they worked for me too. But personally they cause me much more harm than good if I use them daily just to (supposedly) prevent problems. If you're getting nothing but benefits from doing so, that's great. Just know that this is NOT the case for everyone and some people will be worse off by using sinus rinses so frequently.

    Good luck to everyone.

    Submitted by Doug on
    September 26, 2016 - 10:23am

    I agree with you the dryness is the greater of two evils. When I was rinsing daily I was getting 3-4 infections per year, now I am down to 1 if any at all. The dryness contributes to the infections, making the sinus more prone to infection. Plus pumping all that water into stuffy sinuses is a benefit to certain bacteria.

    I rinse following times of bad allergies or on the tail end of a cold when the worst of the congestion has passed, but only 1-2x a week. That flushes out the bad gunk but lest your sinus heal IMO.

    Also, after a rinse I apply a good amount of vaseline into my nose carefully with a q-tip to help the moisture and good mucous re-accumulate. I understand you should not do this daily as you can get pneumonia, but 1-2x a week for a few weeks wont give you that effect unless you do it right before bed ( I prefer to rinse in the morning ).

    Submitted by Richard on
    August 28, 2013 - 4:05am

    I had sinus surgery last year because of chronic sinusitits and have been sinus rinsing ever since. I seem to have more colds and infections now however than before but when you do have a nasty infections or virus etc, the sinus rinsing does help a lot. I think the advice is right, dont do it every day but do it when you have a cold / infection. It is common sense that if you interfere with the body's natural mechanisms, it can cause greater problems. Sinus rinsing is good, is healthy but washing out your natural good mucous 2-3 times a day cannot surely be a good idea. I have stopped doing it daily and so far, so good.

    Submitted by Richard Donovan Papp on
    September 6, 2013 - 8:36pm

    Nasal irrigation works, pure and simple. Salt kills the bacteria that comprises colds and sinus infections. Has worked wonders for this chronic sinus sufferer. Four years later, no infections.

    Submitted by Kim Chaudoir on
    March 28, 2014 - 2:33pm

    I started using Neil Med sinus rinse 2x/day sept 2013. It is now march 2014 and this is first cold I've had since using. This is coming from someone who routinely got a cold every other month regardless of the season. To go an entire winter w/out catching a cold, when many of my friends were sick...that seems to be more than coincidence. It had been since July 2013 that I'd been sick w/any respiratory infection. 8 months!!! I will continue doing sinus rinse 2x a day and see if I am as fortunate through the rest of this year as well. Through Chicago winters none the less!

    Submitted by Mercedes on
    October 26, 2014 - 7:26pm
    Beckertucky , New Jersey

    Just started using NeilMed irrigation on recommendation of my Doctor. I have a sinus blockage and have had six sinus infections this year. I am on my second day and I'm starting to get some pretty ugly goo coming out. My nose is getting dry and uncomfy. I just read that almond oil or coconut oil help with this. I happen to have almond oil, so I'll give it a try tonite after my last rinse. I was told that vaseline is not safe to use in your nose because it may cause pneumonia if inhaled.
    I rinse twice a day, btw.
    Will give feedback tomorrow.

    Submitted by JAIME AVILES on
    December 2, 2014 - 11:45am
    tamarac , Florida

    Dear Dr Barron, I have Started using the Neil med Netti Pot once again after almost 5 years since I had Bronchitis and I believe Nasal Polyps on my Nose . I hope I get relief with this I am tired of taking Mucinex, it hurts my stomach,feel Nauseous and started throwing up food. Do you think I should continue using the Netti pot and should i Seek help from a Specialist an ENT? Waiting on your response. Thanks

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    December 2, 2014 - 4:24pm

    Hi Jaime,

    For obvious reasons, we cannot diagnose or prescribe for specific conditions. That said, it sounds like you have multiple symptoms, affecting different areas of your body. There are some conditions that could actually tie most of these symptoms together—but those conditions would be unlikely to be resolved through the use of a neti pot.  You might want to consider going to a holistic or natural healer for a diagnosis to see if they can tell you what’s causing your problems. If you know the root cause, then it’s much easier to figure out a treatment protocol to address all of your symptoms simultaneously.

    Submitted by karen on
    March 24, 2015 - 11:22am
    independence , Missouri

    I am immune deficient. The nasal rinsing actually causes me to lose all sense of smell and taste. When I used it regularly I went 4 months with no smell or taste. It was awful.

    Submitted by Nicole on
    January 30, 2016 - 8:19am
    Saratoga Springs , New York

    I get amazing results from the McNeil rinse. My sinus pressure is relieved, the shadows under my eyes diminish, and I even feel more energized and healthy and clear-headed overall. But, unfortunately, it seems that using it (approximately once a day to every other day) may have led to a middle ear infection, but I can't be sure. I haven't had an ear infection in many years and I've only been using the rinse regularly for about two months. It's hard to say, but I'm going to be more cautious now and rinse once a week.

    I want to add that I was putting a drop of Ponaris in my nose every other day to help with the dry sinus problem, in case the nasal rinsing was too drying. But I had stopped (too busy and forgot) prior to the ear infection. Maybe it was helping. Ponaris is a great tool and it's available over the counter. The iodine, eucalyptus and cajeput (similar to tea tree) theoretically have antibacterial and antifungal properties. It's worth a try, especially in cold, dry winter air like I have in my climate right now.

    Submitted by Mike Veax on
    February 19, 2016 - 12:53pm
    Fredricksburg , Virginia

    I have been suffering from reoccurring sinus infections for 20 years. I believe mostly from mold. I would get so sick, I would have to go to the Doctor. Antibiotics, prednisone, narcotic cough syrup. Nebulizing. I would get well, then in a couple months or weeks the symptoms would reappear. It got so bad and so expensive, I started buying aquarium antibiotics at the pet shop. I suspect a lot of people do, because it was often sold out. I ain't bragging or recommending. Just admitting. Anyway, I have been nasal rinsing with premix saline powder and a drop of tree tree oil once a day for a couple months and it is like a miracle and cheap.I was really getting sick when I first started rinsing 3 times a day at first and my symptoms cleared up in 3 days. I am glad I read this article and will stay aware of possible side effects or residual infections.

    Submitted by CR on
    April 9, 2016 - 5:22am
    Knoxville , Tennessee

    My doc recommended me to use NeilMed sinus rinse. She stated she uses it, but do not use it too much. It will make things worse. I suffered from sinusitis and was in her office 3-4 times every few months. I remember the comment she made to me. I thought I'd tough it out this time to save money. I was miserable, optic migraines, stomach was funky and my face felt like you'd hit it with a sledge hammer. My teeth hurt like I'd had dental work. She looked me over and said I can't believe how congested you are. This is the worst I've ever seen! I also had lost my voice. She recommended NeilMed that day. I purchased one, used it per instructions. Couldn't use all the solution the first day because I felt it in my ears. By day 4, I could breathe, taste and was improving overall. She also gave me a z-pack. That was 6 yrs ago. I've been able to keep myself out of the doc office by using the NeilMed only when I need it. My young son uses it as well. He suffers from allergies. He was on 4 medicines, sinus infections, ear infections, had to have tubes. Awful! Now when he feels something in his face, I set his NeilMed up to use. He is now 9 and doesn't seem to face any problem sinus rinsing can't fix. I've recently bought my husband his own NeilMed. He doesn't want to use it for some reason. He is now suffering with allergy induced sinusitis. Moderation is key to a lot more than sinus rinsing! ; )

    Submitted by Bebe on
    May 11, 2016 - 8:36am
    Los Angeles , California

    As a 48 year old woman who does not use drugs, I usually suffer through sinus problems for months until it clears. But this last time hit me really hard with thick sick mucus that refused to move. Nelimed was a joke to me at first and I thought the person suggesting it was giving me a heil mary but once I tried it, I am not knowing this needs to be used on a basis to clear all pollen and crap that is in the air and up my nose. I am much more concerned with that then the solution which appears to be proven over and over. Anyway I can't say enough about how this simple solution (organic salt water) just irrigates and clears out the infection. I am so grateful that I did it!!!

    Submitted by Craig Hennessy on
    May 26, 2017 - 5:04am
    Atlanta , Georgia

    Thank you so much for this valuable information. It is people like you that really make a difference in the lives of people with nasal polyps. I suffered for 12 years from nasal polyps and nothing I tried worked.

    Drugs, nutrition, all types of name it--the suffering never really went away.

    Fortunately, I found out about a natural way that finally got rid of my nasal polyps for good.


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